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on 16 May 2013
Midsomer is a remarkably deadly place, a deceptively delicious chocolate box filled poisoned confections. Generations of loyal inhabitants risk life and limb to live in Midsomer's bucolic hills and dales. Thankfully, DCI John Barnaby is as gifted at detection as his cousin Tom. The Barnaby line is rooted in Midsomer's earth, they are dependable in never being surprised by bizarre occurrences. Nothing flummoxes or gobsmacks a true Barnaby. The excellent actor Neil Dudgeon enriches Midsomer with his wry nuance. And Jason Hughes is intrepid as Detective Inspector Ben Jones, his humor adds another level of complexity to the series. Coziness in the U.K. has a macabre stain; like a lace doily blotched with tea, darkness lurks at the edges. In Midsomer County's dangerous environs, denizens inflict and suffer numerous creative malaises.

The U.K. boasts numerous fine (and often underrated) actors. You may want to catch Neil Dudgeon in an unforgettable performance in a superb story (1st season, episode 3) of the BAFTA Award winning series The Street. Neil Dudgeon plays Brian Peterson, a teacher accused of being a flasher. Ultimately, who is the betrayer? His wife claims she has never known him, perhaps it is the other way around. As Brian Peterson gazes out of a taxi window passing street after fogbound street, you understand that each street is full of stories, each person's life with it's moments of mystery. Be aware that The Street is gritty, rough, and harrowing, quite unlike the beguiling charms of Midsomer!

Several episodes in this collection have missteps, no fault of the cast, that may disappoint dedicated fans. The first episode, "Death in the Slow Lane," is a somewhat disorienting introduction to DCI John Barnaby. Producer Brian True-May inflicts shrill drug taking schoolgirls on viewers. Where is screenwriter Tony Horowitz when you need him? Later, the third episode, "Echos of the Dead," panders to graphic CSI style, featuring a dismembered female corpse, with a saw placed on her bare rear-end. This gratuitously lacks the dry humor of Midsomer classics, as in the memorable murder via trebuchet and wine bottles.

Death in the Slow Lane
DCI John Barnaby, a cousin of our original curmudgeon, is wonderfully played by Neil Dudgeon. And he has a dog companion, the emotive Sykes; England, this blessed plot, rife with delightful dogs and detectives. Midsomer's classic formula features charming villages with a high body-count. But this episode, written by Michael Aitkens, despite moments of great dialogue, is off-kilter. The trite titillation of chattering schoolgirls is a malformation of Midsomer, straining to be topical; a poor way to meet new DCI John Barnaby at work! Barnaby's relationship with DI Ben Jones (expertly played by the wry Welsh-humored Jason Hughes) is off to an uneven start. All is not well at a girls' boarding school. Was a past death really suicide? There are hints at some form of incest, a relatively (pun intended) common Midsomer sin. A local DJ is stabbed by a gorgeous red sports car prior to his judging a classic car show. His body being rolled-away on a gurney, weapon wobbling, is classic Midsomer. A humorous aspersion is cast at redheads/ginger, "they are all sex-mad and ill-tempered." The best scenes involve Barnaby being greeted as "Tom," meeting his overly-friendly neighbors, and enjoying delightful conversations with his precocious dog.

Dark Secrets
This episode, again written by Michael Aitkens, again features quaffs of incest on the menu. But "Dark Secrets" boasts the classic Midsomer oeuvre viewers expect, with a rambling old manor amidst gorgeous English countryside The mansion is inhabited by eccentrics, William Bingham (Edward Fox) and his wife Mary (the wonderful Phyllida Law). They rattle about, subsiding on tea and pizza delivery. Our DCI John Barnaby's wife, Sarah (Fiona Dolman), arrives in Midsomer to find that her husband has neglected to unpack. She is the new head teacher at Causton Comprehensive, and receives an unenthusiastic welcome, though she finds a clever way to unpack. Meanwhile, after the body of a social worker is found floating in a river, the reclusive Bingham couple come under police scrutiny. Barnaby and Jones unearth scandalous family secrets, and decipher astronomical charts to discover the murderer. This episode continues a Midsomer theme: a generation went wrong in the 1960/70s, threw off Edwardian sensibilities, and replaced repression with indulgence, to the harm of future generations.

Echoes of the Dead
Despite beauty of Midsomer village Great Worthy, this episode, written by Peter J. Hammond, is like spoiled clotted cream. Producer Brian True-May goes awry with the second murder's exploitative, graphic ugliness; it has none of the macabre humor true to Midsomer's spirit. You know things are off when the dialogue descends to discussing "butt-plugs." Newly single Dianne Price is discovered strangled, dressed like a bride, and laid out in a bath. A lipstick-written warning is scrawled on the bathroom mirror. At first, all seems like vintage Misdomer. The incident spurs copycat wedding-themed murders. Barnaby and Jones investigate a host of suspects, including a corrupt ex-colleague of Ben's, an cop who runs a pub with a former brothel madam, who happens to be his wife. But (yet again) religious fanatics are the worst culprits. The detectives realize that the cases have eerie similarities to past notorious murders. If only they resembled Midsomer's infamous, but charming, macabre heritage.

Thankfully, the following stories return to the offbeat, humorous alternative universe that Midsomer fans crave. Midsomer writers hit their stride, providing an exceptional cast with more worthy material:

Oblong Murders
Sharp dialogue stands out in this episode, written by reliable Midsomer vet David Hoskins. The opening scenes wonderfully depict the world from a dog's eye-view. John Barnaby takes his dog Sykes for a ramble along a path, passing other dogs being walked along the way. Later, forensic medical specialist David Bollard (John Barnaby once called him bullock) asks Barnaby to help find Lucy Oliver, a daughter of his friends. She went missing after becoming involved with a secretive new-age cult, the Oblong Foundation, located at Malham Hall. Long-suffering DI Ben Jones is forced to forgo his vacation to go undercover among the cultists. Finally, viewers see his old humor and charm return (the prior episodes turned him dour). He discovers that the accidental deaths involving the previous owners of Malham Hall may have been murder. Jones copes with several eager females, while navigating the Oblong Foundation's philosophies ("be a tree") promulgating free-love. He discovers money-laundering, and a secret relationship between an Oblong Foundation leader and the missing girl. Fortunately, Ben is intrepid and fast on his feet! And Sykes make some new friends.

The Sleeper Under The Hill
What could be more enticing than pints of bubbly cider with DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DI Ben Jones (Jason Hughes)? But beware, in Midomer County, even Beltane celebrations are treacherous. Children dance around a Maypole, whilst fat sausages roast under the refreshments tent, and the cider is not all it seems. Midsomer fans know that under the cheery, bucolic surface of Midsomer's green hills and dales, a darkly pagan heart fiercely lurks; this helps explain the untoward death-toll. On Crowcall Farm, Alex Preston wants to plow Gorse Meadow. But local New Dawn Druids desire free access to the Meadow, since it contains the sacred stone Crowcall Circle. In a typically gruesome Midsomer death, Preston is found disemboweled on the central stone of the sacred circle. The farmer's wife is too glamorous, and indulges in a dalliance with her fencing-master. A poacher is accused of malfeasance, whilst lay-lines and archaeological artifacts come into play. Barnaby and Jones must unearth local village gossip and history to solve the mystery.

The Night of The Stag
Watch out! It's another pagan holiday in Midsomer County, where moonshiner investigators have it hard. Why ruin a vat of cider with a corpse? Answer: this is Midsomer, after all! And poor DCI John Barnaby gets quite sick on the unsavoury stuff. His dog Sykes is not impressed. During Beltane celebrations, an investigator of illegally produced alcohol is found dead in cider-vat. Barnaby and Jones believe the whole community is somehow involved. Families go so far back that they call one orchard-owner "French" because his ancestors only came over with William the Conqueror. The unsavory murder may be related to the revival of an old, pagan Midsomer traditions, while guest-star Warren Clarke does a memorable turn in a deer-skull. Beware horns in Midsomer!

Sacred Trust
After a chapel's lovely stained-glass window is broken, a nun is found murdered in Midsomer Priory, a secluded community in a lovely edifice that houses the nuns of the Order of Saint Mathilde. The murder forces the nuns to permit the outside world access into their world; enter our intrepid detectives Barnaby and Jones. They discover that the community is vulnerable to relinquishing ownership, and their priest is no help. The Priory is subject to a Deed of Trust that only allows the Order to remain living there only as long as there is a viable community. If the Order fractures, the ownership reverts to the original benefactor's heirs. Beneath the calm face of the Priory, Barnaby and Jones must untangle a skein of motives, while the Order's ancient silver goes missing, and teenagers run amiss.

A Rare Bird
Beware the power of the tweet. The president of the local Ornithological Society, Patrick Morgan, is a brittle bloke, myopic about birds, distracted by binoculars, and his delicate Russian ballerina of a wife is preggers. Without much assistance from said ornithologist. So he suspects every man in Midsomer-in-the-Marsh of impregnating her. The rare Blue Crested Hoopoe has made a controversial appearance in the village, setting birders against one another. DCI Barnaby annoys his dog, and his wife, with his surprising lack of map-skills in the woods. Death looms like a loon-call on a lake, and Patrick is lured to his demise. Barnaby and Jones face frustrations whilst investigating Midsomer-in-the-Marsh's binocular-weaponed world of bird watching.

Each episode is 90 minutes long, and has subtitles for those with trouble hearing the telly. Special Features: Cast Filmographies, Picture Gallery, Writer Biography, Broadcast Dates.

I also highly recommend the gritty Northumberland, U.K., mystery series, featuring the wonderful Brenda Blethyn: Vera: Series 1-2 .
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on 18 May 2012
I have always loved midsomer murders and still do. Neil Dudgeon has taken on the role to perfection, along with the adorable dog Sykes this series has been great.
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on 15 May 2012
We have the complete Midsomers Series and love it. Like others, we were concerned about the Barnaby switch, but the overall series retained it's magic. The series is even better in our view with the addition of closed caption.
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on 20 July 2013
Well for me I did not have to wait long for liking the new Barnaby. The stories seem more interesting, or is it just new blood that is running better, I don't know, but for me the good feeling from the first series of Midsomer Murders is back. Barnaby and his wife do fit in very well
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on 13 June 2012
I am an immense fan of John Nettles' Barnaby and, have to admit, I was not really sure about how anybody (even Neil Dudgeon) could follow him. But if this series is any indication, Midsomer will still be a great place to watch...
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on 16 March 2014
I have been a loyal fan of Midsomer Murders since the very beginning. For me, it has always been the ultimate in 'comfort blanket' TV. Bad day at work, boyfriend blues, bout of flu, put on a dvd, curl up and bingo - it's all better! Sadly, the new Inspector Barnaby falls far short of his illustrious predecessor, and after 17 years of watching and buying every episode, I am giving up. I've always liked Neil Dudgeon, but for some inexplicable reason, he just manages to drain every drop of life from this role. I realise the series is sold as 'Inspector Barnaby' overseas but if I had been at the helm, I would have brought the brilliant Inspector Troy back and paired him up with the equally admirable Sergeant Jones. After all, who says there HAS to be an Inspector Barnaby? Taggart seems to have done okay without the physical presence of Jim Taggart for the past 20-ish years. But what do I know? I'll just toddle off back to my sofa with a cuppa and a copy of The Killings at Badger's Drift' Class...
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on 6 July 2013
Even though it is a new inspector the quality remains the story writing the filming and the quality of all the actors is outstanding
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on 5 March 2014
Neil Dudgeon is a very welcome change from that thickie , John Nettles !!! Even better -- we no longer have to suffer his equally stupid wife ( or his daughter ) . Many of the stories are good , start off intriguingly but then end up in a rather silly , contrived , denoument , which , of course , is a serious weakness in a detec . drama . It's also a disappointment , to watch a whole case unfolding and then find you've been led down the garden path for a couple of hours . Jones is a bit wooden --- would he really be able to analyse a situation ? Mrs Barnaby is pretty good , you can see how these 2 could make avery good couple -- and Sykes is a nice touch ; very credible that the inspector thinks aloud to his dog --- sometimes turning over ideas which he wouldn't be aloud to reveal to other people..... The newest series , where he gets a sergeant with character and brains ie. Sgt . Nelson -- is quite a lot better , although some of the stories are a bit weak . A whole series of murders are carried out because of a biscuit recipe ???? Oh , please , -- get real !!And they call the baby Betty ! Betty Barnaby B..B..B..! wHO thought of that idea ???
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on 20 March 2012
I liked series 14 very much and felt it carried on very well where John Nettles left off but why the steep price? You can get 1200 minutes of Heartbeat in series 10 for £35 but here you have to pay £45 for only 744 minutes. A bit of a rip-off I feel. I want to get this but no way am I paying silly money like that for it. Who is releasing it - "We see you coming plc"?
Update 16 May 2012: Well done Amazon, have just eventually purchased it at a great price of £16.77. Now that is much much better.
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on 30 January 2014
We live overseas, and rely on DVDs for our quality television. Over the last many years we have had the latest Midsomer Murders shipped from the US. We watched the lot, and were so frustrated at how quickly one gets through three or four excellent films of pure, simple entertainment. Recently, we decided finally to return to England, and as one result, we would watch MM right through before handing it to a local charity. We watched one or two episodes every evening that we were free...

We had seen every episode at least once already, and most of them twice before. To our delight, and surprise, we found ourselves as enchanted as ever, very seldom indeed figuring out (with the aid of subconscious memory) who the villain was. It was hilarious to see a younger Neil Dudgeon as a supercharged irrepressible womanizer trying it on with Joyce Barnaby in one episode!

We finished the lot last week and after a week's pause decided to see the first series with the new Barnaby. Looking back on such a marathon, we had to admit nothing but admiration for Brian True-May as the genius who kept the series on the rails, never teetering off into new ground, and sticking very firmly to the formula. And at the same time there is endless invention and new twists in the plots. Yes, there are summer fetes, but nowhere near as many as you might think. There is no gratuitous sex, bad language, not even gratuitous violence - odd as that may sound in view of the weekly body count. The only real, heavy-footed regular cliche is the night-time scene where a person dressed in dark or black is standing behind a shrub watching somebody who is going to get killed before long.

We had to award John Nettles the Roger Moore Award for the most agreeable automated acting since Roger did The Saint. But we loved him. Like Moore, he had subtleties that easily slid by, but if you looked and waited...

So should anybody read this out of curiosity about the Nettles/Barnaby series - look out for the entire lot as a boxed set at a seasonal offer. It will be a bargain.

So what about Neil Dudgeon's Barnaby? We read the awful reviews from England about the first three episodes. Heavens, Brit reviewers can be bitchier and more destructive than the villains in any Midsomer Murders. but Brits are conservative reactionaries anyway. We found the new Barnaby much more subtle and nuanced than the old one. Ben Jones took the given opportunity to play the sore loser who thought he should have been promoted, but after the designated time for establishing the new order of things, it all settled down into the same happy mould. Barnaby's wife is great as the busy head teacher, a very welcome change from the ubiquitous Joyce who was coincidentally always active in the local social scene of yet another beautiful village just before a murderer went on the rampage.

Detective Barnaby is the most popular and widely distributed detective series in the world I understand. It is easy to see why, and to know it will surely continue to be so for years to come.
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